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Former NASA astronaut Steven R. Nagel, who served as a mission specialist on his first space shuttle flight, pilot on his second and commanded his final two, died Thursday after a long illness. He was 67.

Steven Nagel died after a long battle with cancer, accorded to a written statement from NASA.

Nagel joined the astronaut corps in 1978 with NASA's first group of trainees selected for the space shuttle program. Although he was chosen to pilot the orbiter, his first flight was as a mission specialist, a position generally assigned to scientists and engineers.

After his last shuttle flight, Nagel became deputy director for operations development in the Reliability and Quality Assurance Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He subsequently served as a research pilot, chief of aviation safety and deputy chief of JSC's Aircraft Operations Division.

"It will always be my honor to know Steve," said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations. "He blessed our lives in many ways. His humor, positive approach to life, and constant smile is something we will all cherish. His service to our great nation and NASA is inspirational."

Nagel logged a total of 723 hours in space.

He is survived by his wife, Linda, and two daughters, Lauren and Whitney.

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